Recently I decided I was a bit overdue to spend some quality time with the younger of my sons, 13 year old Alec. It is the usual scenario where work and other commitments get in the way. I also have an older son, Matt, who was in his final year of high school this year, which took quite a bit of the focus.
So one evening I called Alec over and asked where should we go for a short trip, for three or four days. We worked through a list and decided on Auckland, New Zealand. We live in Sydney, so as far as travel abroad goes, it is close and minimises the travel time.
Where I feel very lucky is that Alec is interested in film photography. It comes in spurts, but when I asked him what he wanted to shoot on in Auckland, the answer was an emphatic “film”.
The plans were set, we worked out a date, booked some flights and both got quite excited as this was the first time Alec and I would have a trip with just the two of us. All other trips involved the whole family or at a least his older brother. It’s the curse of being a second child.
As the date approached, and with me being a camera collector, the selection of the cameras would become a topic of discussion. Of-course it was difficult, in that there was too much to select from. Initially I was leaning towards a Nikon F3 and FM2n combination, where the sharing of the lenses between the bodies would be handy. I was also keen to keep the bulk down, as I wanted to be able to have a medium format camera with me too.
I finally settled on the Leica M3 Double Stroke and Leica M2 combination. Cameras which as per the Nikons, have not ever let me down and the sharing of the lens between the bodies is covered. The first lens selected was the Leica Summicron 5cm 1:2, the Near Focus version or Dual Range is it is sometimes known. A lens which has a superb character to it, and produces some of my favourite results.
For the wider lens I chose the Carl Zeiss Biogon 35mm 1:2 T*. I prefer a lens which is more modern and crispier for this focal length and this fits the bill perfectly. With this combination of lenses, I also take full advantage of the viewfinders in the Leica M3 and M2 respectively. As a bit of an extra, I also included a focal length I don’t use very often, the Leica Elmar 90mm 1:4.
As both these cameras are meterless, I included the Sekonic L-208 TwinMate exposure meter, though I do tend to use Sunny 16 more often. Just to try it out I also threw in a little Bewi exposure meter which slots into the accessory shoe on the camera. It is a selenium meter, but handy to use when I don’t want to carry a separate meter. The L-208 also has this option, but I found it was too big and never stable.
For medium format, which I knew I would use less on this trip, so that I can keep things interesting for the teenager. The obvious choice was the Fuji GS645S Wide60 Professional. It is super light, has a very good meter and shoots in 6×4.5 format through its wide Fujinon 60mm 1:4 EBC VV lens.
Alec on the other hand knew exactly what he wanted. He chose the Nikon F-601. He has been using the older autofocus Nikons for a little while now and is very comfortable with them. We discussed his lens selection, and he wanted the versatility of a super zoom, so he can concentrate the photo making. I have a wide selection of really nice primes, but he was having none of that. When I had started with Nikons, the first lens I got as a kit was the Tamron 28-200mm 1:3.8-5.6 F Aspherical. While nowhere near at the top of the quality range, it is a very handy lens to use. It got me going on SLRs, so it got packed in.
Film selections were next. I stuck to my known and trusted combination of Kodak Portra 400 and Ilford HP5+. Alec also uses HP5+ for black and white, but as he hadn’t really used much colour I packed some rolls of Kodak Ultramax 400. He prefers to shoot in black and white, so I thought that not much of it would be used. I also packed in some Kodak Ektar 100 for the Fuji in 120 format.
We flew out of Sydney on the Friday afternoon. Airports were easy at both ends. I asked for the film to be hand checked and both Sydney and Auckland airport security staff obliged happily.
The weather report in Auckland was not very promising, it was rain and more rain. Based on that, we planned on taking advantage of the Saturday where there was some possibility of sunshine and make sure we got to Rangitoto Island.
The rest of the activities planned for the following days, through to Monday night, were indoor, which were a combination of Sky Tower, Snow Planet, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Auckland Art Gallery due to the weather report.
This was combined with meals in a steak house, an evening food market and wherever the mood took us. Even the process of preparing for the trip was something we shared together.
We arrived in Auckland late on that Friday, hired the car and drove straight for the hotel to drop off our things. We went out to a quick dinner in the Viaduct Basin where I got to try shooting at night while we were walking around. This was with film (HP5+) already loaded at EI 400 in the Leica M2, so a bit of a challenge in terms of speed. Luckily the M2 can be held still down to 1/15 sec as there is no mirror slap to worry about.
We soon went back to the hotel and prepared our cameras for the next day, selected the film and got some shut eye.
Rangitoto Island is one of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones and also the youngest. The name in Maori means “Bloody Sky”. It is a short ferry ride out there, and about an hour walk to the summit.
I decided to take the three cameras, as going to Rangitoto Island I was expecting an opportunity to take some landscape shots with the Fuji GS645S. I am glad I did.
When we got to the summit, we also witnessed a helicopter rescue operation for someone that had fallen and broken their leg. This entailed the rescuer climbing off the lowered helicopter and then being winched back up with the person who was injured.
Alec fully enjoyed himself. He found the volcanic rock fascinating and thought the rescue was quite exciting. He definitely has an eye for a landscape.
Ferry ride to and from Rangitoto Island
To get to out from the Viaduct Basin you need to catch a ferry, which is a fairly short ride. This gave me an opportunity to make a few photographs. There was some amazing clouds to shoot and of-course some boats. The M2 with the 35mm lens was great for inside the ferry, and the M3 with the 50mm did a great job for the shots beyond.
Anyone that visits Auckland will invariably end up at the Viaduct Basin, or the Viaduct. It is a harbour area which has been well set up with restaurants and bars aimed at the tourists and locals alike. There are also quite a few interesting things set up there, including an outdoor library, chrome air vents, decorated tanks and the very ornate ferry building.
Walking around with the Leica combination was perfect there. By the nature of the area, it lent itself to black and white photos.
Alec took a bit more of a quirky approach here, and only shot one or two frames. I do enjoy when he gets creative and it is more than just shooting the picture.
The Lighthouse is a Michael Parekowhai artwork which is on display in the Viaduct area. It is a 1950s style house that houses light. Well that and a man made out of reflective material. It is lit up at night and quite a sight. It was donated by a local real estate firm and is the biggest piece of art donated to the Auckland council.
We did not realise what it was, and only saw it lit up one night when walking past. Very glad we took the time to head over there and investigate.
I managed to capture a few shot on the Leica M3, thought it was quite a challenge with Portra. Alec had the Nikon loaded with HP5+, luckily at EI 3200 from a previous location with little light.
Another of the tourist landmarks for Auckland is Sky Tower. It is exactly what the name suggests. I enjoy a good view as much as the next person, but the promised rain had rolled in by then obscuring some of the landscape.
Snow Planet is an indoor ski centre just outside of Auckland. Alec was too small to remember snow when we had lived in Europe and he was quite keen to try skiing out. When we decided on Auckland for this trip, we came across Snow Planet advertised and he was really keen to try it out. Taking a portrait of him using a brass camera is an interesting experience, in -5 degrees Celsius temperatures!
Auckland Art Gallery
On the final day we visited the Art Gallery in the morning. We enjoyed looking at the different artwork, sometimes discussing what we think some of the items are, or even why they are considered art. The light was quite low, I was already using HP5+ pushed a stop which helped.
Alec struggled a little as he still had the Kodak Ultramax loaded in his camera and the slower lens made it more difficult. I suggested he leave the rest of the roll and swap out, but he wanted to keep trying. At this point I wished I had packed the 50mm 1:1.8 for him. Well done to him, he managed to get some interesting shots.
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Our final stop for the trip was the Auckland War Memorial Museum. If you are visiting Auckland, do yourself a favour and visit this museum. If is over 4 floors, and each floor is usually a different exhibition to look at, with one reserved for the War Memorial. We saw dinosaurs, giant representations of animals, a butterfly exhibition and an extremely interesting women’s rights exhibition.
It was heavily raining by this point, but it did stop for a few minutes at the end our time there for us to be able to take a few outdoor shots. I was using the M2 almost exclusively then, and I had started to push HP5+ a couple of stops at EI 1600.
Alec was quite interested in the museum. He even waited patiently when one of the staff noticed that I had a Leica and started up a conversation. It seems he used to sell cameras and still uses a Nikon F100. He had swapped over to HP5+ by then and pushed it to EI 3200. I really like his picture of the museum with the tree in the foreground.
We both thoroughly enjoyed this trip. It was a lot of fun and I was extremely happy and proud of Alec on this first trip away only using film. We got to connect and really spend some quality time together.
In terms of the equipment, the Leica cameras performed as you would expect them, as did the Fuji. I was also very happy with the lens selection and by only using the Fuji on occasion keeping the pack light-ish. The Nikon also worked very well, though I wish I had snuck the 50mm 1:1.8 into the bag when we were packing. We also found out the hard way that the flash does not work on this F-601. Alec did struggle in the lower light, but I must admit HP5+ performed admirably at EI 3200.
We are now both looking forward to the next trip together.